Aids Beyond Gender
Learn the Basics, Know the Facts, Take Care of Yourself
Basic information about HIV/AIDS, HIV prevention, and HIV testing. For those just diagnosed with HIV, find information on what to do next. Learn how to stay healthy while living with HIV.
WHAT ARE HIV AND AIDS?
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency virus that attacks the immune system, which is our body’s natural defense against illness. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system called a T-helper cell, and makes copies of itself inside these cells. T-helper cells are also referred to as CD4 cells.
As HIV destroys more CD4 cells and makes more copies of itself, it gradually breaks down a person’s immune system. This means someone living with HIV, who is not receiving treatment, will find it harder and harder to fight off infections and diseases.
If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so severely damaged it can no longer defend itself at all. However, the speed HIV progresses will vary depending on age, health and background.
PREVENTION / REDUCE YOUR RISK
I'm worried about about HIV and AIDS
Whatever your worries and anxieties about HIV and AIDS, we’re here to help. This page talks you through some of the most common things people worry about when it comes to HIV.
Did you know? One of the biggest reasons why people don’t get tested for HIV is because they’re scared. They’re scared about HIV, taking a test, what it means to be positive, and what other people will think. It’s a completely natural reaction to have, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’m worried about getting infected with HIV
Despite what you may have heard, there are only a few ways you can get HIV. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions around HIV and AIDS meaning people get confused about how HIV is transmitted. It’s important that you know the facts about HIV and know what the risk factors are. If you think you have put yourself at risk of HIV, go and get tested. It’s always a good idea to test, even if it’s just to stop you from worrying.
I’m worried about testing for HIV
It’s normal to worry about testing and what the results will be, but testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV.
I’m worried about the results
If it turns out that you’re HIV-negative, then knowing for certain will stop you from worrying. Also, make sure you know how to avoid putting yourself at risk of HIV in the future.
If it does turn out that you’re HIV-positive, it’s better for you to know as early as possible so that you can get the right treatment and support. HIV treatment now means that people living with HIV can live a normal healthy life.
I’m worried about the test
You may be worried about the test itself – but there’s no reason to be. Testing is quick, painless and confidential, and uses just a tiny sample of blood or a swab taken from your mouth.
I’m worried about what others will think
A lot of people worry about testing for HIV, what it would mean for their lives if they tested positive – like relationships, work life, having children – and what people would think of them. Just the thought of going into a clinic scares some people – ‘what if someone sees me going in?’ It’s perfectly normal to worry about these things. But remember to keep the facts about what it means to live with HIV at the front of your mind. Don’t let fear affect your health. Unfortunately, hearing other people’s negative attitudes about HIV often puts people off getting tested. People often have these negative views simply because they don’t understand the facts about HIV. If you know the facts, you’ll feel more confident about ignoring or challenging people who talk negatively about HIV. Remember, HIV is treatable. But it’s only treatable if you’re brave enough to get tested. If you find out you’re negative, continue to focus on being negative. If you’re positive, that’s ok too - you’ve done the right thing by testing and now you can take treatment to stay healthy.
The worst thing is not knowing
Not knowing means that you won’t get the treatment and support to save your life. If you’re positive and you carry on not knowing, you will become ill and you could be putting your life in danger – why take that risk? Forget what other people think, your health is more important. You’re the only one who can stand up for your health and test for HIV.
Is there a Vaccine for HIV?
No. There is currently no vaccine that will prevent HIV infection or treat those who have it. However, scientists are working to develop one.
How Should You Tell Your Intimate Partner You Have HIV?
Many people worry that they will lose an important—or even their only—support system when they tell their intimate partners that they are HIV-positive. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous, embarrassed, or even fearful of your partner’s reaction, which may be verbal or even physical.
Disclosure is a process, so it may take you several conversations. It’s possible that your spouse or partner’s reactions to learning your status may change as time goes by.
STAYING HEALTHY WITH HIV/AIDS
Taking Care Of Yourself When Living With HIV
Taking HIV treatment keeps your immune system healthy, but there are other things you can do to stay fitter and happier like eating healthily and exercising.
HIV does increase your chances of developing other health conditions like TB, but there are ways you can reduce this risk.
If you are young and HIV-positive or are growing older with HIV, you may have questions. Here we address the many ways you can take care of your health and well-being, whatever your situation.
Having HIV doesn’t have to stop you living a full and healthy life. With the right treatment and care, you can expect to live just as long as someone who doesn’t have HIV.
There’s a lot you can do to take care of yourself and feel fitter, healthier and happier.
If you have any questions, talk to your healthcare professional about nutrition, exercise, mental health or any of the other issues covered here.
Taking HIV Treatment
Current treatment for HIV is not a cure for the virus, but it can keep HIV under control and this keeps your immune system strong.In the past, older HIV drugs had serious side-effects, but treatment with modern HIV drugs is much better. If a side-effect doesn’t go away and is affecting your quality of life, you should be able to change to a different drug. Once you start HIV treatment, taking it every day is important to keep yourself well. Talk to your healthcare professional if you are having any problems taking treatment.
People living with HIV should aim to eat a balanced diet, without too much fat, sugar or salt. For many people, eating well is a pleasure, and learning how to cook and prepare food for yourself, your family, or friends can be fun.If you are underweight – perhaps because HIV was already making you ill by the time you were diagnosed – or overweight, or if you have any particular dietary problems or side-effects that make it hard to eat well, then you might benefit from talking to a healthcare professional about your die.
MYTHS ABOUT HIV & AIDS
There are lots of myths about how you can get HIV. Here we discuss those myths to make sure you know the truth about how HIV is passed on.
- Unprotected sex.
- From mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
- Injecting drugs with a needle that has infected blood in it.
- Infected blood donations or organ transplants.
- A healthcare worker who gets the blood of an infected patient inside their body.
Voluntary HIV Counselling and Testing
VCT - What is it?
VCT stands for voluntary counselling and testing. VCT is when a person chooses to undergo HIV/AIDS counselling so that they can make an informed decision about whether to be tested for HIV. The government is encouraging all of us to come forward to be tested for HIV. It believes that if many of us get tested, even though we may not be sick, this will help to lessen the amount of stigma associated with the HIV test.